INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger said there is a "very good chance" he will make his season debut Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Granger has yet to play in a game this season because of a strained left calf that originally was expected to sideline him for the first three weeks of the season. He also missed all but five games last season because of a knee injury. Granger said conditioning is his only issue now, and he no longer has any problems with his calf or knee.
"There is a very good chance [of a Friday return]," Granger said after shootaround Tuesday. "I'm working on it every day. I'll play [in practice] tomorrow and practice the next day. Hopefully, it will be Friday."
The Pacers host the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat on Tuesday in a showdown pitting the Eastern Conference's best teams. The Heat eliminated the Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Granger said there was a chance he could have played tonight if the Pacers were facing a lesser opponent.
"This game is just too important," Granger said. "As much as I hate to miss it, I wouldn't play in it not having played yet this season."
Granger has averaged 18.1 points and 5.2 rebounds during an eight-year career with Indiana. He worked out for about 30 minutes with Pacers assistant coach Popeye Jones on conditioning and shooting after the Pacers' shootaround Tuesday. Granger said he has been a full participant in all practices and shootarounds lately. He expects to come off the bench upon his return and says he is more focused on getting back in shape than his role.
"I got to get into shape first and play," Granger said. "We are rolling right now. We are 18-3. We are one of the best teams in the league. Before I sit here and say what I am going to do, I got to get back and start playing. Our starting lineup is doing well right now."
Granger last played March 3 against the Chicago Bulls. While his injury woes have been frustrating, he said he is happy he is close to a return.
"When I saw Derrick Rose go down [with another serious knee injury] I said, 'My situation could be a lot worse when you look at what he has gone through after taking a year off,'" Granger said. "It's one of those things you have to fight back from. You just stay the course and you'll be back from it."